"Son of man," He said to me: "I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me. To this very day the Israelites and their fathers have transgressed against Me.
I. REBELLION IMPLIES ON THE PART OF THOSE WHO ARE GUILTY OF IT THE POSSESSION OF A VOLUNTARY NATURE. If there is no liberty, there can be no rebellion. Rebellion implies intelligent apprehension, and it implies deliberate purpose. The rebel knows what is the authority which he defies, and he defies that authority, not only intelligently, but of purpose. Brutes do not rebel; but men and angels may do, and have done Hence the serious responsibility attaching to rebellion against God on the part of wilful though misguided men.
II. REBELLION IMPLIES A JUST AUTHORITY AGAINST WHICH, CONTRARY TO EIGHT, THE REBEL SETS HIMSELF. There can be no rebellion where there is no government, no rebel where there is no governor. Neither can there be rebellion, properly speaking, against a usurper, who has no claim upon the loyalty and allegiance of those whom he may unjustly denominate his subjects. The moral government of the world is a fact, and its administration is characterized by equity. As the universal Legislator and Judge, God demands the subjection and obedience of mankind; all are his lawful subjects. There is no rebel against Divine authority who can bring against the rule and sway of the great Governor of the universe the charge of injustice and tyranny. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
III. REBELLION AGAINST GOD INVOLVES GREAT GUILT AND MISERY. This awful fact is not to be questioned by any reasonable student of the moral history of mankind. Nowhere more strikingly than in the history of Israel has it been shown that they who resist Divine authority and violate Divine Law incur the most awful guilt and entail upon themselves the most awful punishments. Sentimentalists may complain that such assertions are the expression of severity and fanaticism; but it remains forever true that "the way of transgressors is hard," and "the wages of sin is death."
IV. MAN'S GUILTY REBELLION PROMPTED INFINITE MERCY TO PROVIDE A VAST REDEMPTION AND DELIVERANCE. The history of the Hebrew people exhibits instances not only of human apostasy, but of Divine compassion and merciful interposition and deliverance. Thus the Captivity was itself a punishment for rebellion, for idolatry, and for all the evils idolatry brought upon the nation. Yet God did not forget to be gracious. He made the Captivity an occasion for displaying his grace; mercy triumphed over judgment. Repentance and submission took the place of resistance and defiance. Discipline, chastisement, answered its appointed purpose. God pitied the rebels even whilst he censured the rebellion. And very similar has been his treatment of mankind at large. The whole race has rebelled, and the whole race has been redeemed. There is spiritual amnesty provided through Christ Jesus, reconciliation through faith and repentance, restoration to affectionate loyalty and to happy subjection through the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit.
V. WHEN REBELLION IS SUBDUED, AND THE REBEL HUMBLED, SUBJECTION IS FOLLOWED BY LOYALTY AND HAPPINESS. God does not leave his work half done. He pardons the penitent, but he blesses the loyal and the reconciled. Great is the change which takes place in the state of him who has laid down the weapons of rebellion and has cast himself in penitence and submission before the footstool of the throne. As rebellion is exchanged for loyalty, and defiance for submission and gratitude, so disgrace is exchanged for honour, and the just sentence of death for the merciful assurance of Divine favour and eternal life. - T.
1. To declare God's will;
I send thee to the children of Israel.I. THE COMMISSION. Is it not an act of infinite condescension, that God should take any notice of us? For what are we? Poor finite creatures; of limited capacities, with tendencies to evil, tendencies to the very thing that God Almighty hates, detests, and abhors. Not only with tendencies to these things; but in the actual perpetration of sin; committing crime upon crime. And yet God sends His message to us. Why? Because He knows the original dignity of the soul of man; He knows what it was before he fell; He knows what it was capable of then; and He knows what the soul of man can yet be made through the blood of the Cross and through the power of the Holy Ghost: and, therefore, God sends messages to man. "I do send"; "thou shalt say." We have no business to go and preach unless God send the outward call of the Church and the inward call of the Spirit. And hence our own Church asks all its candidates for holy orders — the bishop puts the question — "Dost thou believe that thou art inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon thee this office?" Oh, solemn question! But what shall they speak? They shall speak, "Thus saith the Lord." The authority for the message is "I do send"; the nature of the message is what the Lord hath said.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THIS MESSAGE, WHICH THE PROPHET HAD BEEN COMMISSIONED TO DELIVER, IS TREATED. A twofold way: some receive it; others reject it. Concerning the apostolical ministry, concerning the word preached by the apostles, some believed the thing spoken, and some believed not.
III. THEY WHO RECEIVE THIS MESSAGE, AND THEY WHO REJECT IT, SHALL BOTH KNOW AT LAST THAT IT CAME FROM THE LORD. They who receive it, knew it long before. The indwelling Spirit of the living God testifies with your spirits that these things are true. But take the case of those who reject the Gospel. Oh, they find out also that it was all true. I appeal from the present to the future. You know there is a story in history of a poor woman who considered herself aggrieved, and applied to Philip, King of Macedon. She found him in a state of intoxication: I appeal, said she, "from Philip, under the influence of wine, to Philip, sober and able to judge." And so I say, if the world, with its allurements, enchant and ensnare you now, and intoxicate your spirit. I appeal from that state to the hour when you shall turn your pale face to the waft, when friends and kindred and medical men shall whisper, "It will soon be all over": then you shall find, as true as that there is a God, that the Bible is a Divine revelation, that the things which we said to you, concerning which you thought us too much in earnest, are all perfectly true.
(T. Mortimer, B. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
2. To assert His authority;
3. To seek, notwithstanding all our discouragements, the salvation of their souls.Learn hence —
1. The importance of the ministry;
2. The duty of those who are ministered unto.
(G. Simeon, M. A.)
(R South.)Manton). The principle is the same, whatever the value of the coin may be: the prerogative of the Crown is trenched upon by the counterfeiter, even if he only imitates and utters the smallest coin of the realm. He has set the royal sign to his base metal, and the small money value of his coinage is no excuse for his offence. Anyone sin wilfully indulged and persevered in is quite sufficient to prove a man to be a traitor to his God. The spirit of rebellion is the same whatever be the manner of displaying it. A giant may look out through a very small window, and so may great obstinacy of rebellion manifest itself in a little act of wilfulness.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Impudent children and stiff-hearted.1. Progress in sin makes impudent. It is an exceeding evil to be past shame, to be impudent in sinning. If ever God show mercy to such sinners, they must be ashamed.
2. Where there is an impudent face there is a hard, stiff heart. And this is one of the greatest evils.
3. God sends His prophets and ministers about hard services, such as are full of discouragements when looked upon with a carnal eye.
4. Ministers should not so much look at the persons they are sent to, or the event of their ministry, as at their call. God's will and command must content us, support us. What if we be scoffed at, reviled, made the offscouring and filth of the world; yet here is the comfort of a true prophet, of a true minister, Christ sent him; and He that set him to work will pay him his wages, whether they hear or hear not to whom he is sent.
5. Those who are sent of God must deliver, not their own, but God's message.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)John 15:18), the servant could not expect to be welcomed when the Lord had been in effect rejected, The exiles' hearts were not right with God; therefore, of course, they could not appreciate God's envoy. What they said, as he reports it, exhibits human perversity in some very advanced forms, which are by no means obsolete; it is only too easy to translate their objections into language which is anything but dead. Hear some of them complain that the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. "We are punished because our fathers sinned; is that fair? Can the way of the Lord be called straight: It is not straight, but twisted, contorted, and our sense of justice is shocked": as many nowadays declare that the inequalities of human condition, or other natural facts which "cannot be smoothed over or explained away," have made them incapable of believing that the world is governed by a righteous Providence. Or there are these who openly say, "We will be as the heathen": it is the cry of that wild impatience which would fain get rid of the responsibilities avowedly involved in the profession of religion. Or if the mood is not so distinctly rebellious, it is that of a sullen despair which masks itself under an apparent acknowledgment of sin: "Our hope is lost, we are cut off, we pine away in our transgressions, — how then should we live?" The gloom, we see, is faithless, even if it does not reach the point of revolt. Again, there are others who reject, as we might say, on the grounds of "common sense and common experience," the supernatural character of prophecy; "every vision faileth" predictions are disproved, or, to quote a modern dictum, "miracles do not happen." Ezekiel is, in effect, bluntly told that "facts are against him." Or even, say others, "if there is something in his prophecies, the vision is of times far off": things will last our time. we need not disturb ourselves — as a comfortable selfishness has often persuaded itself before some great "Day of the Son of Man," e.g., in the years that ushered in the French Revolution. Or others have their own prophets, much better worth hearing than Ezekiel, who tell them what is pleasant to think of, with no austere requirements, no rigid prohibitions, no croaking "bodements" of a dismal, intolerable future; the result of which is, that "the hands of the wicked are strengthened to go on in their evil way" by "visions of a peace that is no peace." Or the style and contents of Ezekiel's preaching are cavilled at: the misgivings which it secretly awakens are silenced by critical remarks on its obscurity: "They say of me. Doth he not speak parables?" Practical men, they assume, may web dispense with attending to a voice that cannot put plain meaning into plain words. Or there are others, probably among the younger sort, who at first sight seem more promising; they listen to the prophet with real enjoyment, as they might to one who can sing pleasantly and "play well"; only it is a mere aesthetic pleasure, a gratification of the sense of beauty for its own sake, with no moral movement of the will: "they hear thy words, but they do them not." Or, lastly, there are men grave and "highly respectable," who come with all appearance of seriousness to sit before Ezekiel as pupils, and inquire, through him. of the Lord; but he is bidden to repel them as self-deceivers who have set up, and retain, "their idols in their hearts": favourite sins with them prove stumbling blocks to bar all progress upward; therefore on them shall come the doom of being "answered according to their idols." Ezekiel's ministry was, as we thus see, preeminently a ministry of penetration into character. Its leading feature is a close, severe, persistent dealing with conscience; he has been truly called "the prophet of personal responsibility." He shows that if, to some extent, heredity involves very real disadvantage, if children suffer because parents or ancestors have sinned, yet in the last resort no one soul will be spiritually rejected from the mercies and blessings of the Divine covenant simply on account of the sins of other persons, which he has not personally shared in or made his own. So does Ezekiel prepare the way for that Saviour who, while He built up His Church as a spiritual home for all believers, conferred a new dignity, sacredness, preciousness, on each individual soul for whom He died. What a thought it is, the interest that the Most High God takes in each one of us singly! That fact has a twofold bearing: it imposes on us the obligation of walking in the fear of the Lord, of standing in awe and striving not to sin, of recognising that the revelation of a true God, as culminating in the incarnation of a Son of God who gave Himself up for us all, must needs have a stern side. But the other aspect of our personal relation to God is that in which the Gospel mainly presents Him — that which was illuminated by the Cross and summarised in St. John's assertion that He is Love.
Shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.Isaiah 55:11); be it to win and draw, or to harden and make inexcusable. See Isaiah 6:9, 10.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)Acts 26:16). All faithfnl ministers are Christ's witnesses (Acts 1:8). They bear witness of Christ and His doctrine; and if we receive not Him and His doctrine, they will be Christ's witnesses against us. As for Me and My prophets, My ministers, you despised, or only gave the hearing, and that was all: and My charge is not false; here are My witnesses. What say you to it? Speak, you ministers of such a city, and such a place. What, did you not preach many a sermon, shed many a tear, sweat many a drop, make many a prayer for them? did ye not early and late watch for the good of their souls? etc. Yea, Lord, but they would not receive us, they would not believe our report we made of Thee, they would not take Thy yoke upon them, etc.; we shook off the dust of our feet against them. This will be dreadful, when such witness of the prophets comes in against hearers.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
(W. M. Taylor.)
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